Wk 10 – Artist Conversation – Tony Nguyen

Artist: Tony Nguyen
Exhibition: “Neoteny”
Media: Metals, wood
Gallery: Dr. Maxine Merlino
Website: eltigresite.wordpress.com

This past Wednesday, I, along with two of my classmates decided to check out the exhibition being held at Dr. Maxine Merlino Gallery. Inside we were all blown away by the vast amount of interesting art pieces. Tony Nguyen, a fifth year graduate, named this gallery “Neoteny.” He has actually already attended the Commencement Ceremony, but still needed an additional two years for his degree. He joked saying his parents thought he “flunked,” but there’s nothing to worry about. Soon, Tony will be able to have his BFA from the Metal-Sculpture program.

Entering the gallery, the first thing that caught my attention was a vending machine which he titled as “Vending Machine Peddling Happiness.” Inside of it were colorful, empty capsules. The second thing that caught my attention was a tiny succulent being held in a pot which was named “Kimlee the Pothead.” Tony explained he came up with the pun himself. The pot itself was made out of metal and it was a sculpture of an adorable figure. Although it was originally my favorite art piece, I would soon favorite a piece titled “My Family Bridge/ Cầu Của Gia Dình.” At first glance, this piece could be passed off as a simple piece of jewelry, but it is much more than that. Another piece that also caught my attention was the one on the same stand as “My Family Bridge.” This piece consisted of small figurines which represented Tony’s different characteristics, like: ‘Fancy Tony,’ ‘Astronaut Tony,’ and ‘Transparent Tony,’ among others.

Referring to the piece mentioned before, “My Family Bridge” means much more to Tony than just being a simple necklace. It contains a deep meaning about his parents and his brothers. Each of the segments were bridges that represented his family members. The reason why Tony decided to make them bridges was because of story that his mother revealed to him. His mother, who experienced the Vietnam War, was almost killed by bomb that was dropped near a bridge she had to cross. If she had not crossed that bridge, Tony would not be able to tell this story himself (it’s something he says had a huge impact on him). Each bridge actually has the names of his parents and brothers embedded onto them. Attached to those bridges were small footprint pieces, which amazingly enough, were exact measures of his family members’ feet. Because this piece is a huge representation of the admiration he has for his family, I was astounded by the dedication Tony puts into his art—even onto the smallest detail.

The main theme of Tony’s exhibition was showcasing his childhood experiences and stories, hobbies that kept him entertained, influences from people and philosophies he grew up with; which fits with the title “Neoteny.” Seeing his art, I could see how hardworking Tony is. I truly enjoyed visiting his exhibition and talking with him was such a bliss—he actually interacts with his audience, which is something I had not experience with other artists. Unlike the other artists I have interviewed, Tony told his story and was delighted to explain every art piece in his gallery. Despite being the “blacksheep” in his family, being the only child interested in becoming a metalsmith, Tony has dreams of making it big. I hope he accomplishes all his dreams and wish him success in everything he sets for himself.


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